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5 Reasons Authors Should Be Reading the Classics — 19 Comments

  1. I would just like to point out that not all high school students shun the classics. I am in high school, and am making an effort to read as many classics as I can- of my own free will. Charles Dickens, George Orwell, and Mark Twain are my favorites.

    • Good for you! I certainly didn’t hate them in high school either. The Scarlet Letter was the highlight of my high school literature studies.

    • I agree! Of course, short stories won’t help us learn certain things about writing longer fiction, but they’re still important and brilliant resources.

  2. Although I agree, I have found it difficult to read some of these Classics. I have a book of summaries of Shakespeare’s plays and they sound fascinating! Not so much when one actually tries to read them. I did find a way to get high school students to read them though! They look for all the insults. Also sex, violence, etc. Another great tool is to have them in groups and translate their section to everyday English. Of course, the movie versions of R&J are a big help.
    Sherrie
    P.S. Please share my Kickstarter campaign & support me if you can! $5 will get you an e-book. Thanks!
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    • I agree. The classics most definitely *are* difficult sometimes. But, in the end, I’ve found the occasional struggle to always be worth it. I loathed Faulkner while reading him, but he’s stuck with me more vividly (in a non-loathsome way) than just about any other author.

  3. I think I have just stumbled upon brilliance. I am going to do just what you say. Do you have your list published in the order you read it?
    Reading blogs in my downtime has retrained my brain to have the attention span for 500 words or less. I have hamstringed myself in reading deeply. Thank you!

  4. Hello,
    Love reading your blogs and tips on Writing. This is no exception. Do you have a list you would recommend? What parameters did you set for your list?
    Thanks,
    Kate B

    • My personal “list” is pretty broad. I’m trying to read any book (or author) I recognize that was published before 1950. But I definitely recommend the English classics such as Austen, the Brontes, and Dickens.

  5. I am astonished when I mention Dickens or Dostoevsky to another author and get a blank stare. The latter I can mostly understand, but anyone who writes in the English language and purports to be an author but has not read Dickens, Shakespeare, Chandler, the masters of all kinds of different ways to use this language, is missing out.

    • Mark Twain said classics were books everyone had heard about, but never read. Sad if even the former isn’t true anymore.

  6. And reason #6 – reading a great classic is THE best way of fixing writer’s block. Or at least giving you some insights into how to ‘fix’ whatever’s causing it.

    Thanks for a great article, although I would always nominate my personal favourite Jane Austen over Charlotte Bronte for literary excellence (that’s probably an English thing though, as there are several flaws in JE on social class dynamics) but mainly because IMO there’s no writer, ever, who did character development better. Including Shakespeare! 😉 But then that’s the beauty of classical literature – you’re spoiled for choice and their writing shapes your experience both as a reader and a writer. It’s like being a kid in a candy store, experimenting to find out what tastes best to you and ALL of it helps you learn and grow wise, if only by example and even if you really hate something because it’s all the same coin!

    • Writer’s Digest will be continuing this series with other authors doing the annotations. I can’t imagine they won’t get to Jane Austen. I was a little surprised they didn’t start with her, although I have to say I’m now plenty glad they chose Jane Eyre.

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